Taking a weight loss product containing ephedra can be very risky. Ephedra has been linked to serious side effects such as seizures, strokes, and even death. Fortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action and banned every weight loss product containing ephedra in the market starting April 2004.
What is ephedra?
Ephedra used to be a popular ingredient in dietary supplements and weight loss products. It comes from the plant Ephedra sinica. It is also known as Ma Huang, and is used by the Chinese as a medicinal herb to treat respiratory illnesses like asthma, the common cold, and hay fever. Ephedra also works as a powerful stimulant that directly affects the cardiovascular and the nervous systems.
Ephedra also works as a thermogenic, which can cause your metabolism to increase since there is an increase in your body heat. This has made ephedra gain its popular reputation as a "fat burner". Many people take a weight loss product containing ephedra together with caffeine and aspirin. Studies show that when taken with proper caution, it is very effective for short-term weight loss.
Known side effects
Ephedra has been known to increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels, resulting in high blood pressure. A weight loss product containing ephedra may cause irritability, dizziness, trembling, nervousness, severe skin irritations, insomnia, dehydration, itchy skin and scalp, vomiting, profuse perspiration, headaches, hyperthermia, seizures, irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart attack, and even death.
There is actually no standard requirement for the dosage of any weight loss product containing ephedra, mostly because they vary from brand to brand. Here is an example:
o Dosage for Metabolife 356: 2 tablets for 2 to 3 times a day, an hour before meals, and on an empty stomach. It is highly advised not to take more than 8 tablets in a day.
o Dosage for Ma Huang: Not more than 100mg a day and not more than 12 weeks. However, because of its serious side effects, it has been recommended that ma huang should be taken in doses not bigger than 8mg per serving every 6 hours, but not exceeding 24mg in a day.
Ma huang is classified as a fat burner and an appetite suppressant. It is also known as ephedrine, ephedra alkaloids, sea grape, ephedra, yellow horse, joint fir, Mormon tea, teamster's tea, sea grape, postillion, and squaw tea. Since it has not been formally evaluated by the FDA for safety, purity and effectiveness, there are no manufacturing standards set for ma huang. That is you should consult your doctor before taking Ma huang or any supplements containing it.
Metabolife 356 is another example of a weight loss product containing ephedra. It contains a blend of ginger, Siberian ginseng, ma huang, guarana, spirulina, bovine complex, lecithin, chromium picolinate, vitamin E, magnesium, and several other herbs. Caffeine and ephedrine are the most active ingredients of Metabolife 356. They both work to produce more body heat to speed up your metabolism so you can burn more calories. Furthermore, it also works as an appetite suppressant, making you feel less hungry and limiting your food intake.
Ephedra is not a regulated drug, and so many manufacturers are making false claims. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent letters to a number of online manufacturers because many of them lack sufficient warnings. The label should tell the user to stop taking the drug upon experiencing side effects such as irregular or rapid heartbeat, severe headache, chest pains, shortness of breath, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, and fainting spells.
Is ephedra legal?
The FDA has reviewed the data on ephedra's safety, effectiveness, side effects, pharmacology, and its RAND Corporation report (which contains a review of published scientific literature on the safety and efficacy of ephedra). The FDA considered several studies that confirm the side effects of ephedra on the circulatory system. On February 2003, they evaluated whether weight loss products containing ephedra pose a significant threat to a person's health.
Ephedra and traditional medicine
The FDA has prohibited the sale of any weight loss product containing ephedra in the United States. However, some medical conditions many call for the use of ephedra-containing drugs. Before taking any supplements, be sure to consult your doctor to see whether it will work for you.